Safer journeys to school in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan supported through Advocacy Hub
Safe journeys to school across Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan have been in the spotlight thanks to advocacy and implementation by Public Association ‘Road Safety’ (PARS), an EASST local partner, supported by the FIA Foundation.
The FIA Foundation joined EASST in the city to visit examples of child road safety initiatives introduced over the past two years and join a key stakeholder forum to explore local challenges and long-term opportunities. PARS is part of the Child Health Initiative Advocacy Hub’s ‘Pathfinder’ portfolio, aimed at developing an enabling environment for policy change.
The road safety situation in the Kyrgyz Republic requires serious attention. Based on the World Bank formula for costing road casualties, the scale of death and injury on the roads of Kyrgyzstan costs the economy around $249 million annually, or 3.7% of GDP. With over 12,000 road deaths and injuries every year, the road safety problem in the Kyrgyz Republic is severe. The primary victims of crashes in the Kyrgyz Republic are pedestrians, who account for 44% of crashes and 34.5% of deaths, among which 22% are children under the age of 16.
Aggie Krasnolucka, FIA Foundation Programmes Director, said: “Every child deserves a safe and healthy journey to school and we are pleased to support this crucial work in Bishkek through our Child Health Initiative Advocacy hub, aimed at developing an enabling environment for policy change. We are grateful for the work of our core partner EASST and implementing partner PARS.”
Traffic congestion is also high across the city centre, particularly around school zones where there is no parking infrastructure and parents/drivers are forced to drop their children off/wait on the roadside, idling their engines, and parking illegally. In addition to posing safety risks, vehicle emissions on routes to and from school are exposing children to toxic air and causing respiratory illnesses.
The highlight of the visit was a Stakeholder Discussion Forum organised by PARS to bring attention to these issues. The forum targeted decision makers including the Republican Traffic Police, Bishkek City Administration, Representatives from the Ministry of Health, the Auto Motor Sport and Road Safety Federation, media representatives, and many others. Our goal was to explore local challenges and opportunities with a view to finding locally relevant solutions to the growing problem of road risk and traffic-related air pollution.
This included the opportunities presented by the new National Road Safety Action Plan launched earlier this year as well as general challenges relating to road safety infrastructure in the city, as well as enforcement and financing. We were able to form a number of new contacts and build relationships with key stakeholders who have committed their support to this cause.
Chinara Kasmambetova, PARS representative, said: “Thanks to the support of our partners, EASST and the FIA Foundation, we have been implementing a project on road safety around schools over the past three years. We have worked specifically with schools 5 and 67 in Bishkek, piloted 30 km/h speed limits near schools 96, 46, and 32, and carried out infrastructure upgrades near schools 8, 48 and 61. This work has been welcomed by the school communities and we are pleased to see the rate of road crashes reducing in areas we have worked. At the forum, we discussed what measures are needed to improve child safety on the roads and around all schools in Bishkek, what are the obstacles, and how we can overcome them. We hope that our partners’ visit will give impetus to our efforts to promote children’s road safety.”